A house smaller than tiny stands on Hailey Radvillas’ lawn on the west side of Colorado Springs.
Its small Pikes Peak pantry, with its gabled roof and giraffe-patterned paint job in blue, green, purple, and magenta, and plexiglass doors that open to reveal two shelves, is part of a network of small pantries across the United States. at littlefreepantry.org.
The addition to her court was born out of a sense of desperation as she watched the pandemic rage and friends and colleagues lost loved ones and jobs, as civil unrest filled our collective consciousness.
“I was learning more about helping each other and the people helping each other, and I wasn’t getting into the business or government side of things,” Radvillas said. “The need is real. Mutual aid is the most important thing over which we, as Americans, have control and can help each other. I will not give because I feel bad. I will help because I might need help and we are stronger together.
Inspired by the Denver Community Fridges and The Love Fridge Chicago projects, which feature refrigerators stocked with store-bought, packaged food and fresh produce, Radvillas launched her own self-help project in late January. She put a set of drawers from a thrift store outside her house at 516 W. Pikes Peak Ave., across from Western Omelette, hoping to take advantage of its location – close to downtown and two great trails, which see a lot. pedestrian traffic. She filled the drawers with shelf life food and toiletries and watched it take hold. His plan worked – nowadays people come and go almost every day, leave and take donations.
Matthew, a 68-year-old homeless man, rode his two bikes to Radvillas’ house on a hot September afternoon. He hopes her husband, who has started repairing bikes for free this year, can help. He’s no stranger to the pantry; it is a handy source of food and other necessary items as it treats post-traumatic stress disorder.
“They save me from hunger,” Matthew said. “They take good care of people, children and dogs. “
Today the two pantry shelves are a bit bare. There are packages of pasta, boxes of tomato sauce, and a cardboard box full of individual servings of sunflower seed butter. Menstrual pads are perched in a corner. A sturdy cooler filled with cool, cold water sits on the sidewalk, next to another cooler and several large plastic storage bins, all donated by community members.
People come and go all day and all night. Some give – they drop food (although Radvillas does not accept fresh meat, dairy products or eggs); toiletries, such as deodorant, diapers, tissues, hand sanitizer, toothpaste and toothbrushes; clothing – men’s clothing is the most popular, as men make up the bulk of the homeless population; dog food and pet food; and other household items. A woman left a computer screen, DVD player and VCR, which quickly disappeared. Others receive, take what they need. There is no limit to what people can take. The rules of this little pantry are that there are no rules.
“That’s the beauty of this. If you need it, take it, ”Radvillas said. “No one is going to watch you. There are no cameras. We are not looking outside. With food banks, you must give your name and possibly your address. We want to exist in a place where there are no demands other than being hungry or needing something.
Word spread quickly after Radvillas released the first set of drawers. She created Instagram and Facebook accounts (@pikespeakpantry, facebook.com/pikespeakpantry) and then decided to upgrade. She and her husband revamped a piece of furniture they bought from ReStore, making sure it could withstand all weather conditions, and hired the Colorado Springs Lizigns artist to paint it.
Other organizations have taken note. Cerberus Brewing Co., located nearby on West Colorado Avenue, offered customers $ 1 off their beer for donated items. Chelle Tomasik, coordinator of the Manitou Springs Food Pantry, which is run by the St. Andrews Episcopal Church, packs excess food once a month for Radvillas to collect.
“It’s really important,” Tomasik said of Pikes Peak Little Free Pantry. “We need our villages. What she does on her own is phenomenal.
As a Lasagna Love volunteer, Cathy Whitworth drops homemade lasagna dishes and other meals in the pantry twice a month. The national non-profit association was formed at the start of the pandemic. Anyone can go online at lasagnalove.org to sign up for a free, homemade, hand-delivered lasagna.
“It takes a lot to keep that going,” Whitworth said of the pantry. “To keep it clean and beautiful. It is a wonderful thing. Anyone can donate as they wish. It doesn’t have to be a lot. It might just be a few things, but that’s how you get it to people.
Radvillas and her husband Cully Radvillas moved to Springs from Chicago in 2012 and now have a 4-year-old son. They both work from home, thanks to the pandemic, which has made it easier to manage the pantry as they can keep tabs on food and water filling. The new project does not always go smoothly, of course, although the problems are few. There are people who visit who are not in a very good state of mind, because of drug addiction and mental illness. And there was the one time they came home to find someone had tried to tear down the pantry doors. But someone else had tried to fix the damaged door and left a note for them, with the broken room, on their porch.
“It’s the spirit,” Hailey said. “It is all of us who come together to help each other.
Part of its intention is to reduce people’s fear of each other and encourage people to treat each other more openly.
“There will always be people who steal and have addictions, but it’s infrequent,” she said. “People just want to be heard and recognized as human beings.”
As for the future, Hailey has no desire to turn Pantry into an LLC or a 501 (c) (3) nonprofit.
“God no, I don’t want to do this,” she said. “I don’t want there to be red tape. I don’t want somebody to tell me what to do, or to tell people who come here what to do. They should just be people who are there for each other.
Contact the author: 636-0270